Essay about LTE and LTE-A a spectrum flexibility: A huge dilemma or a major bliss?

Submitted By aelokr
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LTE and LTE-A Spectrum Flexibility
A major advantage or a huge dilemma?
Ahmed M. Elokr – Senior Wireless Marketing Manager
Huawei Technologies Co.,Ltd.

“LTE IS COMING!” – Such an old over-used cliché to describe the promising land of LTE for
MBB market. I prefer to say that “LTE is already here”. While operators and vendors are still finetuning their LTE plans to suite the available spectrum resources and feed the MBB hunger for their telecom markets, LTE-Advanced is promising DL speeds up to 100 Mbps.
Knowing that a huge portion of operators have already declared commitments to LTE but still the frequency and spectrum assignments issues are on discussion. The question now is either
LTE-A is bliss, or a major dilemma?

LTE spectrum flexibility and Operators’ resources Maybe one of the most attractive features of LTE is the flexibility in spectrum allocation. Working on traditional frequency bands like 900 MHz,
1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz along side with the flexibility in channel bandwidth assignment (1.4,
5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz). Such flexibility from one side is providing operators with a wide range of scenarios to adopt while deploying LTE, but from the other side it might add some extra confusion which band is the most suitable to use.
As well we believe some other hurdles might face LTE early developers:

LTE Spectrum: It’s Flexible!
Vast development in DSPs, RF chipsets and antenna systems helped LTE development a lot to provide a very flexible technology, especially in terms of frequency and spectrum flexibility.

Imagine the number of possibilities using a channel bandwidth of 1.4, 5, 15 or 20 MHz on a wide selection of frequency bands (700, 800, 900,
1800, 2100 or 2600 MHz). Keeping in mind that the 3GPP is still working on more bands, and
LTE-A is even promising more flexible channel bandwidth assignments. This is what we can call
Flexible!

Multi-Operator markets
Countries with 3, 4 or even more operators would face a huge problem to deliver LTE with enough throughputs to fulfill urging MBB demand. Though LTE can support flexible bandwidth assignments, but still 15 and 10 MHz channels would make the difference of LTE against HSPA+.
In some markets – Saudi Arabia for example – 3 telecom operators find it very difficult to operate
LTE in a continuous chunk of FDD 20 MHz channel in 2.6 GHz band. In such market where
HSPA+ speeds reached 42 Mbps, deploying LTE on 5 or 10 MHz channel is nothing but a cost overhead with no real advantage over 5 MHz
HSPA+ (neglecting features like DC for example). Non contiguous resources
Even in cases where the operator has enough resources in a distinctive band, these resources are not necessarily contiguous. Some actions to tackle this issue are either refarming – which delays the LTE time to market relatively – or spectrum exchange between different operators.
Though the second solution sounds applicable, but still it needs a long process of communications and permissions from national regulators. Phasing-out 2G
While planning for spectrum usage of LTE, it is very crucial to have in mind the life-time and phasing out of existing 2G and 3G networks. It would be wise to deploy LTE in a brand new frequency band, but it would be even wiser to introduce LTE gradually into the existing bands of 2G. The main quest would be when 2G is going to be phased out and how voice services will be migrated to 3G and 4G?

What is LTE-Advanced Promising for operator’s frequency resources?
LTE-Advanced is promising more advantages than just increasing the DL/UL speeds; it is enhancing the usability of the frequency resources of operators through providing higher spectral efficiency and modulation schemes. But still the most attractive enhancements is how it can make maximum benefit of operators frequency resources, either rich or scarce.

Spectrum Aggregation
As mentioned before, a lot of operators might have sufficient frequency resources in the LTE designated bands, but problem is that these resources are…